THE first cruise ship ever to call to the West Cork island of Cape Clear arrived on Thursday morning with a group of 70 bird watchers.
Guests on the cruise ship, the Ocean Nova, were escorted by guides from Birdwatch Ireland who have a manned bird observatory on the island, and visited some of the island’s prime birdlife, wildlife, and marine life viewing spots.
While the main focus of the visit was birdwatching, they also took time to visit the island’s museum which depicts life on Cape Clear, past and present, and view its impressive exhibit about the building of the iconic Fastnet Rock.
Upon departure, the ship sailed around Fastnet and entered Schull Harbour, another first.
From there, coaches brought passengers to the Mizen Head Signal Station and Visitor Centre where they enjoyed not only the scenery, but observed the bird and marine life in this area.
The cruise call came about as a result of Cork County Council’s work in cruise tourism. In 2016, Bere Island was included in the itinerary of a German cruise company, Hapag Lloyd Cruises, a visit which proved so successful that they will return again on May 18 of this year and twice again next year.
“The cruise business is diverging into two trends — mega ships carrying thousands of passengers on the one hand, and smaller ships, with fewer passengers, but ones who want to really engage with the destination,” County Mayor Declan Hurley said.
“West Cork has a very rich natural and cultural offering for these enquiring travellers and the West Cork islands, in particular, hold great appeal to the cruise companies and their clients.”
Chief Executive of Cork County Council Tim Lucey said:
“We are unique in that we can offer a cruise company one type of experience in Cobh and such a completely different one then as they sail west to Bantry, Glengarriff and the islands.”
The 2018 season will see some 12 cruise ship calls into West Cork’s harbours and islands delivering approximately 5,000 visitors into the area.